Education | National

BIA allocates $45M to replace two aging Navajo Nation schools

The sign to the Little Singer Community School in Winslow, Arizona. The school was built more than 30 years ago and is in desperate need of repair. Photo from Monolithic

The Bureau of Indian Affairs is finally finishing work on the last two facilities on its school construction priority list.

During a visit to the Navajo Nation, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced $45 million for the Little Singer Community School in Red Valley, Arizona, and the Cove Day School near Winslow, Arizona. The money will be used to replace aging facilities on both campuses.

“While this funding is long overdue, it meets critical educational needs to build safe learning environments for Native children, fulfills a broken promise to tribal communities, and clears the way for our new 2016 replacement school construction priority list,” Jewell said in a press release.

Clearing the last two schools enables the Bureau of Indian Education to focus on a new school construction priority list after more than a decade of inaction. Ten finalists have been selected and five will be placed on the list, according to the Interior Department. Funding for those schools will be dependent on Congressional appropriations.

Additionally, the BIE will be receiving another $93 million to improve schools across Indian Country. The funding comes from the omnibus appropriations bill that became law last month.

According to DOI, $12 million will cover replace components of school campuses, $8 million will go toward teacher housing and $73 million will be used for general facilities improvement and repairs. In total, the BIE's construction account received $138 million in the omnibus.

“The funding demonstrates the Obama Administration’s commitment to Native youth success, opportunity and a brighter future," Jewell said. "This budget proposal received bipartisan support in the House and Senate, and I thank members of Congress who supported this request and shepherded it through the legislative process.”

The $138 million represents a significant increase from the 2015 level of $74 million. However, it's far below the need -- the BIE needs at least $3 billion to replace old schools and make overdue repairs at other facilities, according to the Bronner report.

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